Up three points in the final stages of game five in the Region II quarterfinals, Western Albemarle appeared to be in control. A scrappy John Handley squad had put up a good fight but the Judges were poised to give way to the Warriors.
“We got to 13-10 and I think everybody was feeling pretty confident that we could put two balls away before they could put five balls away,” said Western coach Ron Pack.
Handley thought otherwise. The Judges reeled off five straight points to win the fifth game and in turn the match 3-2 to end Western’s season and earn a berth in the region semifinals against Loudoun County.
Handley never panicked despite being down 13-10 in game four against a senior-laden Western squad. Instead, Handley stated mistake free and pulled out the improbable win on the road.
“In a lot of our district games, it came down to the fifth set,” said Handley coach Lindsay Hazellete. “We just used that to lean on those experiences. I’m glad the girls were able to keep their composure, do the small things right and come away with the win.”
This was Handley’s first trip to the region playoffs in at least 10 years.
The Judges got big-time production from Anna Ribeiro, a junior who is one of three Handley players on the All-Northwest District team. She unleashed a 17-kill, 30-dig night for the Judges to anchor her squad in the win.
“Particularly from the second half of the second game and through the rest of the match we had lots of trouble putting the ball on the floor — they did a wonderful job,” Pack said. “They (also) put up a good block against Maggie Spindel.”
The Judges’ focus on trying to limit Spindel’s effectiveness in the middle played a big role in the win. Alex Barnett was a big part of that effort too as the Handley senior came up with five blocks on the night. Barnett and Ribeiro had to step up with the Judges’ other All-Northwest first teamer Dierdre Carter stuck on the bench with an injury.
Despite Barnett’s efforts, Spindel still played a big role in a balanced offense with 10 kills while seniors Maggie Kooken and Laura Bergin had 17 and 15 kills respectively. The loss ended a talented, six-member senior class’ career. A pair of backline standouts in Ivy Morgan and Marina Clark as Peyton Brookins and setter Lauren Reifsteck rounded out the class.
“They haven’t just put one year in this program, Laura Bergin has put four years into this program and Maggie Kooken has put three years into this program,” Pack said. “It’s very tough on them.”
Clark’s 21 digs led the Warriors, while Spindel set the pace on blocks with four on the night. Reifsteck finished with 42 assists.
Handley will take on Loudoun County (17-1) Thursday on the road.